Tiffany Zhong is Summoning an ‘Army of Teens’
High school, senior year – a time to look towards graduation, weigh the decision of college and brace oneself for four years of sleepless nights and an abundance of cup-o-noodle dinners. Young investor Tiffany Zhong decided that such a life wasn’t for her.
Pushing through the assumed boundaries of the world’s current youngest generation, Tiffany was only 16 when she began connecting with established venture capitalists working in the world of technology. Reaching out via Twitter, Zhong targeted industry leaders whose success inspired her and whom she felt she could learn from. Unwavering in her pursuit of tutelage, but unconvinced that a formal education was a necessity, she found that – with a little persistence – many were enthusiastic about connecting with her. Her proposal was simple: The Generation Z audience will affect your bottom line, they know themselves better than anyone else, and I can get you that intel, firsthand.
“I’m 16. What can I do?”
From childhood, Tiffany was a vigilant observer. Her father worked in software and hardware engineering for 20 years, and her older brother, often enrolled in tech camps and extracurriculars, was always building things. Inspired and emboldened by her family, her desire to build something of her own translated into the cultivation of a social presence which she leveraged to connect with those whom might be interested in her most valuable product: her insights as a teenager.
“I’ve always been intrigued on how I could build my own products.”
Through the means of a rapidly-growing social media following, Tiffany quickly cultivated a network of who’s whos within the investment sphere. While she had initially gone through the motions of pursuing a four year university education, it was in her freshman year at UC Berkeley she realized traditional schooling wasn’t for her.
“I kept getting text messages, phone calls and emails from at least 40 different VCs in New York and LA asking me what I thought were relevant teen trends. Whether or not kids are using a certain app and if they should invest. They wanted to know what I thought of it [and a myriad of other things] because I was the only teen that they knew. The only young person or college student they knew who was also working in venture and understood product.”
Harnessing the knowledge collected from her early teen experience as a networker, she realized she had the power to construct an empire of her own – and in the process, redefine what we think of as a “teen rebellion.”
“I dropped out of Berkeley last May. Hopefully, for forever… That’s what I tell my parents.”
In January of 2017, Tiffany channeled her business acumen into her own startup, Zebra Intelligence. Part of her objective in starting her own company is to create a shift where the business world can serve as an “alternative education.” Zhong is fixing her focus on illuminating the inherent power of the Gen Z perspective as well as sharing empowering business tactics with her peers – all the while providing valuable information to powerful investors.
“At Zebra Intelligence, we are building an education, a modernized form of coursework — We train college students, teaching them how to build consumer insights and collect research. They conduct interviews with a younger demo and work with clients directly, ultimately presenting to executives from Fortune 500 companies.”
“From an investment, product or marketing perspective, Zebra Intelligence helps both organizations and influencers, across a multitude of different industries, more deeply understand and reach Gen Z with a high level of efficacy.”
What makes Tiffany’s work so exciting and even more so, necessary, is that as our world – and specifically the tech bubble – continue to experience exponential growth, investors need to know where the attention is coming from and where it’s going. Though discerning between fleeting fads and lasting trends can be a challenge, Tiffany is confident in informing her clients that there is a significant advantage in reading the movement across social media. The power to identify where these trends are headed next lies with the youngest generation of consumers.
“Effective utilization of social media, by keeping an eye on up-and-coming influencers or building an e-commerce site, is important – and marketers and investors need to know that.”
The technology consumer base may be getting younger, but they aren’t getting any less sophisticated. For longer tenured companies, leaning on a youthful demographic is not only the smartest move, but an essential one in order to stay relevant and atune to the demands of their audience.
Marketing to her peers, thus far, has worked completely in her favor, but Tiffany has plans for Zebra Intelligence to advance for years to come. The idea is to “empower an army – an army of teens.” Passionate and driven, as well as utterly oppositional to the notion that younger generations are lazy, this “empowerment,” is not only crucial for industries but also of service in changing a societal misnomer.
“This is a company that is [and will be] entirely dependent on college and high school students for its employee base. My belief, as college age individual myself, is that if I can do research, my peers can as well. I have a strong faith that this will work – and it continues to.”
- What is an important fact about yourself that isn’t on the internet?
A: I am very public with everything I am and do. But this is something not out there. In the future I want to be a music producer. Creating tracks that people love and make them happy.
- What is the most valuable piece of advice your parents ever taught you?
Do not be afraid of hard work, and just go for it. “Shoot your shot, if you don’t, you never know what’s going to happen”—it’s how I approach a majority of things in my life.
- What is the BEST thing about being Tiffany Zhong?
I am fearless. I’ll try all sorts of things, I’m a risk-taker.
- What is the WORST thing about being Tiffany Zhong?
I don’t take advice or feedback well. I’m very confident, which, in some cases, leads me to believe that I know what I’m doing—whether or not it’s entirely true.
- What fictional character do you most closely align yourself with?
“Simba, he’s really cute. I don’t really have an answer as to why.”
‘One day Simba, all of this will be yours.’ – The Lion King